‘Death has become a part of Britain’s benefits system’ – Frances Ryan

22_september_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,208

Tuesday 22 September 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

As a chronicler of the last three and a half years it is truly shocking to witness the appalling rate of decline in the quality of life in Britain. Who could have imagined such a thing, or how much worse it would have been if you hadn’t been somewhat held back by having spent the first five years in parliament in a coalition? Whilst the compromises that the Liberal Democrats chose to make cost them dearly there can be no doubt that they did exert a modest restraint on your party and the policies you were able to pursue.

It has also given me an opportunity to reflect on what a modest venture the introduction of the Welfare State was, although that in no way undermines the achievement when compared to the brutal conditions that existed for so many before its introduction. It was certainly something the establishment of aristocracy and wealth would never have even considered and who fought like fury to prevent it, especially the NHS which led to Anuren Bevin’s furiously angry speech in which he said, ‘no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation’.

The late Howard Zinn had much to say about compromise in the struggle for social justice and believed it was not for the people to compromise; that is for legislators – ‘he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise’. Yet if we the people make demands we are already compromised by our historic expectations. If I demanded a £20/hr minimum wage my own neighbours would likely turn on me for making such a ridiculous demand, yet it is a demand so paltry I doubt you would consider getting out of bed for five minutes to make a cup of tea for such an amount.

Now, here we are today, counting our dead and, as Frances Ryan recently wrote in the Guardian, ‘Death has become a part of Britain’s benefits system’, and yet you accuse us of having a culture of entitlement as you slash away at a benefits system paid for by the people for the people and Tory MPs jeered and sneered in parliament at tales of hardship in a debate on food banks.  Only three days ago we heard from a chap whose mother had lost her benefits for missing a JSA appointment because she was in hospital, she received no money for five weeks and her carer noted, ‘Ruby is worried about money, still waiting for benefits to be sorted’. Less than 48 hours later she was dead. At the time of writing that post has received 35,866 shares on Facebook alone.

How we respond to such barbarity I do not know, nearly 36,000 people could probably tear down the Palace of Westminster with our bare hands, perhaps people are constrained by fear of the response from those who inhabit it. I have little doubt you would justify the massacre of the outraged as restoring proper order after politically motivated extremists attacked parliament, because you care nothing for our lives or well being. It has ever been thus and that is precisely the problem, beating the poor is the historic role of the privileged and that is what the vitriolic outrage at the fair and democratic election of Jeremy Corbyn is all about.

Bevan’s speech to the Manchester Labour rally 4 July 1948





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